Knesset Has No Need for Yet Another Recess

All the elected officials would do well in the next term to act to shorten the recesses and bring order to the legislature's activity.

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The new Knesset's faction leaders taking a group photograph. March 31, 2015.
The new Knesset's faction leaders taking a group photograph. March 31, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

“This is a holiday for the democracy facing the most challenges on earth. I’m proud to stand here today as the prime minister of Israel’s citizens — those that voted for me and those who didn’t.” This worthy statement was uttered on Tuesday by Benjamin Netanyahu during the festive swearing-in of the 20th Knesset.

Yet, only a day after the smiles, the photographs, the toasts and the promises “to deal with reducing the cost of living with an emphasis on housing prices,” the new Knesset took a recess of no less than a month. It did so despite the fact that only two days ago it returned from a four-month recess. The Knesset members will return to work only on May 3.

A Knesset committee approved the Passover recess on Tuesday this week. During the recess, the temporary Knesset committees will be able to hold debates, but to do so they’ll need the approval of the agreements committee. The Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein, will be able to allow a Knesset debate at the cabinet’s request in special cases, but only if 40 MKs are mobilized to attend it.

Most of the MKs supported going out on recess again, after one day of “work.” The only ones who objected were the members of the Zionist Union. MK Miki Rosenthal was right when he said “the Knesset is not the House of Lords, but a legislature with an essential role. [Approving the recess] shows the Knesset’s contempt for the Israeli public.”

The Knesset, which dispersed at the beginning of December 2014, will in fact be paralyzed for six months. But the disruption in its regular work does not characterize only the current Knesset. In recent years, parliamentary work has suffered a chronic absence of continuity, which harms the Knesset’s ability to enact laws in a serious, consistent manner. During 2012 and 2013 the Knesset worked only about seven months each year.

President Reuven Rivlin was right when he reminded the 39 new MKs that they are acting as envoys for Israeli’s citizens, “as public servants, not as a privileged group that is set above the common people.” But if public servants are supposed to set an example, why are the MKs entitled to such long recesses, while the common citizen is not?

So, beyond the expected political brawls and familiar scrimmages among the various party members, all the elected officials would do well in the next term to act to shorten the recesses and bring order to the legislature’s activity.

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